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The Middle East: 5 'US' years later!   

Saudi Gazette - 01 May, 2012
Author: Khaled M. Batarfi

It is sometimes necessary for writers to take a break every now and then, and return with a fresher outlook and perspective. Back in 2007, my sojourn from writing was not voluntary, as wiser heads advised me to keep a low profile. Now the new Editor-in-Chief of Saudi Gazette Khaled Almaeena is telling me: "Open up... Your opinion is called for."
It’s amazing how much, or how little, things have changed in the past five years. Take Iraq, for example. Five years ago, it was still debatable whether the US meant what it said, and said what it meant regarding the future of Iraq.
Today, it is obvious that the US has failed in all the arenas of sincerity and competence. Iraq has been delivered on a silver plate to Iran and its Iraqi stooges. It’s no longer united, stable or safe. The promise of freedom, prosperity and democracy is but a forgotten dream. The immediate and foremost concern now is security.
My Iraqi friend Ibtehal, was chatting with me about her trip to the Kurdish north, and how different it was from the rest of the country: secure, stable, prosperous, and well governed. She is looking for investment opportunities among the waves of multinational investors seeking potential business ventures. “Good, I said, but what about the rest of the country?” Her answer was prompt and heartbreaking: “What country? I don’t have one!”
America’s foot soldiers are finally leaving Iraqi soil, but their footprints are not. For obscure political and economic reasons, their decision makers brought Nouri Al-Maliki back from Iran, together with his exiled Al-Da’wa party comrades. In spite of Al-Maliki’s known attachment to Iran’s clerics, and ideological differences with the Sunnis, the US promoted their government, supporting them economically, politically and militarily. He was supposed to be their stooge. Today, with diminishing power and influence in Iraq, America cannot even persuade the Al-Maliki government to adopt the US position on Syria.
Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) said: “Those who support the aggressor will be hunted by him.” The US may feel safe for now, but once the last soldier leaves, and more Hezbollah soldiers (and commanders) take over, the game will begin. America cannot change its fundamental blind support for Israel, the arch-enemy of Iran, and the latter cannot suppress its appetite for more gains and influence in the Middle East.
Therefore a final face-off is assured. With the military and nuclear capabilities and aspirations of both countries, and the vulnerabilities of the oil rich region, the result will be a global economic tsunami. America’s interests and friends will be the first to feel the punch.
For the residents of the Arabian Gulf, the stakes are much higher. The battleground for any future conflict may include neighbors like Turkey and Pakistan, but it would primarily be fought in our backyard. Our oil fields and ports are all concentrated on the coasts of Iran and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE. The oil tankers that supply much of the world all go through the Strait of Hormuz. It’s frightening to imagine an inferno, let alone a war among nuclear powers on such volatile grounds!
Let us hope that cool heads prevail, especially in the US. I pray that new policies will reposition and reengineer current US stands toward the regional players and conflicts. Till then, I hope that my return to active commenting will be a happier and safer one!

— Dr. Khaled Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at: Kbatarfi@gmail.com
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